Forum Thread: Are some long books too long?

I'm reading Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle which is 640 pages long. The back of the book lead me to believe that it's all about people living in he aftermath of a comet hitting the Earth. But last night I got to page 215 and the comet is only now hitting. That's a lot of pages to read before getting to the point. In fact, I skimmed or entirely skipped many of them.

I've never felt the need to skim when reading a 250 or less page book. And I don't always with a longer book but I do sometimes. Does this happen to anyone else?

6 Responses

I think books are a lot like movies when it comes to pace.  Some long movies have spots that drag and parts could have probably been left out that didn't really add anything to the movie. Others go by so fast, they leave you wanting more. I have read long books that started with a bang on the first page and were hard to put down because of the pace and suspense throughout the book.  On the other hand, I've read a few that were so slow getting to the point that I never got that far. What surprises me is when such a book is from an author I like and have read other great books by them. Really makes one wonder what the heck happened.

That was the case here. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle also wrote The Mote in God's Eye which I've read more than once and read every word (one of my favorites). However, they also wrote the sequel, The Gripping Hand, which starts out with about 40 pages that (SPOILER ALERT) turn out to be a false lead for the characters and could have been left out without making a difference. Filler? Both are around 500 pages.

Yes, probably filler to meet a criteria imposed by the publisher? It stinks that this sometimes happens because it can really ruin a good book.

I agree, some books just seem to drag on forever.

I can somewhat understand it with older books - novels were a relative luxury, and you'd want to make them last. That being said, when I tackled Les Miserables, I completely skipped over Hugo's mini-lecture on ergot and rye (though I managed to make it halfway through his ruminations on Waterloo).

And I love Lord of the Rings, and I think Tolkien has a beautiful style... but some parts are still pretty dry and could probably be cut out.

Rachel, Oh yes, old books... All that exposition and monologues buried in dialogs. I used to be able to read them just fine until I took some writing courses. Now I have trouble getting through them! Darn writing courses :(. Makes me realize that sometimes the problem's with the reader.

Well, it was a tough slog, and I interrupted it once to read another book, but I finished the book that started this thread, Lucifer's Hammer. I said I'd skipped much of the first 250 pages and it turned out I didn't need them. Once the comet hit, the story slowly picked up and kept up a good pace with no filler to the last page, 640. So I'd say it's a good read after page 250.

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